SAN FRANCISCO— This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday could see another kind of king. According to the California Coastal Commission, the January “king tides” will occur January 19 through 21st. The tides are the highest of the year and provide a glimpse of the future with what the state can expect with sea levels rising in the coming years.

As part of the 5th anniversary of the California King Tides Project, citizens have been asked to grab cameras, smartphones and other devices and to help document the high winter tides, some of which have already passed, on social media.

The first round occurred December 21-23 and a final series for this winter season will happen February 17-19.

“King tides give us a glimpse of the potential ‘new normal’ along the California coast,” said Coastal Commission Executive Director Charles Lester. “These extreme tides may become routine in coming years. Documenting them is a great opportunity for students and citizen scientists to help us prepare for the future. The Coastal Commission is working to address the impacts of sea-level rise to our beaches, wetlands and critical infrastructure through grants and partnerships with local governments who are on the front lines of critical planning efforts.”

The documenting of the tides highlights the way homes, harbors, and other infrastructure, as well as beaches, wetlands, and public access to the coast may be affected by sea level rise in the future.

The commission said photographs taken of flooding during storm events during any high tide or “nuisance flooding” are also useful since they would indicate an exacerbated hazard if coupled with a king tide.

Climate change researchers and city officials will then use these images to validate sea level rise models and to build a hyperlocal catalogue of flood vulnerability data for use in community planning projects.

According to a National Academy of Sciences report last year, sea-level is expected to rise by one foot by 2050 and up to five feet by 2100 along California’s coast.

The Army Corps of Engineers has advised planners to make plans for infrastructure with a conservative estimate of five feet in sea level rise by the end of the century. With this in mind, king tides illustrate what the average daily tide will be in 50 years – and during these winter king tides, we can witness how hazardous storm events can be exacerbated by higher water.

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